Jon Krawczynski / AP Sports Writer, Published December 26 2012
Peterson has eyes on playoffs, rushing record
One more game in his remarkable comeback season, and the only thing that remains on the line is everything.
A win against the rival Green Bay Packers on Sunday would put his Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season. The milestones of 2,000 yards and Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record are there to be had as well, along with a potential MVP award that would cement his standing among the league’s great players.
“It’s such a big game when you look at everything that can be accomplished,” Peterson said Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to it, man. Most importantly, getting into the playoffs, securing that with a win against Green Bay. Having an opportunity to hit 2,000, having an opportunity to break Eric Dickerson’s record in the same game, it would be great to accomplish.”
Perhaps the only thing more improbable than the Vikings (9-6) sitting one victory away from a playoff berth is that they have been carried there by Peterson, who tore two ligaments in his left knee just over a year ago. He has already racked up a career-high 1,898 yards rushing this season, leaving him 102 away from becoming the first player to hit 2,000 yards on a reconstructed knee.
His inspiring recovery has galvanized a team that has been teetering on the edge of elimination the last four weeks and has put some of the biggest names to play the position in his corner as he runs toward history. Dickerson is on record as saying he hopes Peterson falls a little shy of his 2,105 yards rushing in 1984, but everyone from Jim Brown to Terrell Davis to Chris Johnson – the last running back to rush for 2,000 yards – have come out in support of his pursuit.
“So impressed by everything (at)AdrianPeterson has done this year,” Detroit Lions great Barry Sanders tweeted recently. “Big fan of E.D. But really pulling for AP to break the record. Good luck.”
Peterson needs 208 yards on Sunday to break Dickerson’s record, a number that would be considered close to impossible for most running backs in this pass-happy league. But Peterson has topped that twice in the previous four games. He’s also rushed for more yards against the Packers than any other team, including 210 yards at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2.
“I wouldn’t say I’m rooting for him to get it, but I want him to do the best that he can do,” said Johnson, who developed a bit of a rivalry with Peterson a few years back when both laid claim to the title of the best running back in the league. “It’s just a nice story from where he got hurt last year. I sent him a text to see how he was doing and stuff like that. I wish him the best and whatever he does, I congratulate him on it and I’ll be happy for him.”
Peterson has been humbled by all the support and is understanding of Dickerson’s stance, but there is one player he wishes he could sit down with before he plays one of the biggest games of his career – Walter Payton.
“What inspired you to be the best?” he wishes he could ask the Bears great, who died in 1999. “How did he deal with success and fame? If he could do anything different, what would it be? What would he have done?”
Peterson speaks to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier about Payton. Frazier was a teammate of Payton’s and has routinely said he sees striking similarities between the two, on and off the field.
His name is up there with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the MVP discussion, and an MVP win for Peterson would break a string of five straight given to quarterbacks. He’s certainly showing that an offense can be successful while relying heavily on the running game and validating the Vikings’ decision to invest heavily in him with a lucrative contract extension before last season.
“I definitely want to keep the running backs highlighted,” Peterson said. “It’s started to turn into more of a spread, quarterback-friendly NFL. But just keep letting them know that there are going to be running backs that can do this.”
LaDainian Tomlinson, another running back with Texas roots, won the MVP award in 2006, the last time a non-quarterback has won the award.
“It would definitely be nice to do that,” Peterson said. “And I feel like it will happen. I just have the confidence in myself and the guys that surround me who have played such a big part in this the whole season.”
One more game to strengthen his case. One more game to reel in those records and try to extend this magical season for at least another week.
“Coming into the season after going through the rehab process, I just told myself that I wanted to lead my team to a championship and make sure that I contribute and do my part,” Peterson said. “I’ve been doing it. I just ask God to continue to bless me.”